ASTC: Lakeside Preview

BOC GASES AUSTRALIAN SUPER TOURING CHAMPIONSHIP - ROUND 1 PREVIEW: Lakeside, Queensland, Sunday, April 18 BRITISH DRIVER BOOSTS SUPER TOURING GRID Patrick Watts to race ex-works Peugeot in BOC Gases Championship THURSDAY, APRIL 8: ...

BOC GASES AUSTRALIAN SUPER TOURING CHAMPIONSHIP - ROUND 1 PREVIEW: Lakeside, Queensland, Sunday, April 18

BRITISH DRIVER BOOSTS SUPER TOURING GRID

Patrick Watts to race ex-works Peugeot in BOC Gases Championship

THURSDAY, APRIL 8: Britain's former works Peugeot driver Patrick Watts was today confirmed as a late entry for the opening round of the BOC Gases Australian Super Touring Championship at Lakeside Raceway in Queensland on April 18.

Watts raced in the British Touring Car Championship for six successive years up to 1997, and he will contest the Australian series in a front-drive Peugeot 406. The 42-year-old from Kent will drive for newly-formed Starion Team Peugeot, based in Sydney.

Team manager Paul Grimm has purchased two 1998-specification Peugeot 406 cars for his Australian championship campaign. The cars were raced by Peugeot's works team of Briton Tim Harvey and New Zealander Paul Radisich in the BTCC in 1998.

Watts has raced in Australia before, in the 1997 AMP Bathurst 1000, when he qualified a works Peugeot 406 fifth on the grid and held third place for a lengthy period of the race before being forced to retire because of mechanical problems. He said his visit to Bathurst had left him with the utmost respect for the leading drivers in the Australian championship, who include works Audi spearhead Brad Jones, the 1998 title-holder, Jim Richards with the factory-supported Volvo team, and BMW racer Paul Morris.

"I expect the competition in Australia will be as tough as it gets," said Watts. "The qualifying and race results of the Australians at Bathurst in international competition speaks for itself. History shows if we'd kept running at Bathurst we could have won, so I suppose I have some unfinished business in Australia. I don't know anyone who would like to travel that far to be a loser!"

Watts remains undaunted about the prospect of driving on Australian racetracks that are new to him, or using the Yokohama control tyres introduced for this year's championship for the first time.

"Just walking upside down in Australia being 'down under' could present a challenge!" he joked. "Drivers need the answers to two questions - which way does the track go and what's the lap record. The rest should take care of itself. I have not seen a Yokohama tyre, let alone driven on one, but it's the same for everyone and that can't be a bad thing."

Grimm said he had secured technical support from Peugeot Sport in Great Britain.

"We're giving Starion Team Peugeot whatever assistance we can, and I'm sure Paul (Grimm) and Patrick (Watts) will prove a highly competitive team." said Mick Linford of Peugeot Sport Britain.

Grimm said he was negotiating with sponsors and other overseas drivers with an aim to enter a second Peugeot 406 in the championship.

"I believe that by purchasing the latest specification Peugeots from Britain, and securing a driver of Patrick Watts' calibre, Starion Team Peugeot has demonstrated its intention to compete seriously at the highest level of this year's BOC Gases Australian Super Touring Championship, " said Grimm.

SUPER TOURING BRIEFS

Briton JAMIE WALL will drive a Honda Accord in the championship opener at Lakeside, instead of an ex-Team Dynamics Nissan Primera as originally planned. Project Racing Team Manager Nigel Barclay said Wall hoped to have the Nissan in Australia from Britain for round two at Oran Park in Sydney on May 2. The Honda Wall will drive at Lakeside was raced in 1998 by Mark Adderton, who finished fifth in the championship and third in the Independents Cup. Sydney driver ANTHONY ROBSON aims to take over the Honda at Oran Park if Wall has the Nissan. Robson will drive at Lakeside in the Grid Motorsport BMW 318i he raced in 1998.

New Volvo Dealer Racing Australia works driver MARK WILLIAMSON had his first test in an S40 at Lakeside last week and impressed team manager GEORGE SHEPHEARD. Williamson, who will make his championship debut at Lakeside, drove about 40 laps in the test. "Mark has the right attitude," said Shepheard. "The car is new to him so he's building up to speed. Once he has more time in the car he's going to be very competitive." The 1997-specification car Williamson will drive was raced by team-mate JIM RICHARDS in 1998. Shepheard said Richards' new car from Britain would arrive in Australia this week.

Audi Sport Australia have tested at Calder Park in Melbourne, Eastern Creek and Oran Park in Sydney, and at Mallala in South Australia in the past month. Defending champion BRAD JONES said the team faced a challenge switching to front-drive A4 cars in 1999, after racing Audi quattros the previous four years. The front-drive cars are 975kg, compared to the quattros, which raced at 1,070kg. Jones, who won both championship races at Lakeside in 1998, is wary of accidents in the championship opener. "The big thing at Lakeside is staying out of trouble in the run to the first corner because we've seen some big shunts there over the years." Jones' team-mate this year is MATTHEW COLEMAN, who replaces Cameron McConville.

Sydney driver NIGEL STONES is likely to delay his championship debut until round 2 at Oran Park. Stones has purchased one of the ex-Paul Picket Hyundai Lantras. The other will be raced in this year's championship by CLAUDE ELIAS. Veteran BOB TWEEDIE, who made his 50th championship race start in 1998, will miss the early rounds, but may make a comeback later in the series in one of his two ex-BTCC Vauxhall Cavaliers.

TOCA Australia has organised a championship launch at King George Square in downtown Brisbane on Wednesday, April 14, leading up to the opening round at Lakeside. The launch will be from 11.30am to 2pm, and will include a display of race cars and team transporters. Drivers will be introduced to the pubic and there will be an autograph session. Those attending include British drivers PATRICK WATTS and JAMIE WALL, plus BRAD JONES, JIM RICHARDS, and PAUL MORRIS, and leading Independents Cup competitors. High-rating Brisbane radio station Triple M will also be present and conduct 'giveaway' competitions.

LAKESIDE SUPER TOURING FAST FACTS CIRCUIT LENGTH : 2.4km RACE LAP RECORD : 52.23-secs, Jim Richards (Victoria) Volvo S40, 28.6.98 1998 POLE POSITIONS : Race 1: 52.08-secs, Jim Richards (Victoria) Volvo S40 Race 2: 51.77-secs, Jim Richards (Victoria) Volvo S40 1998 RACE WINNERS : Race 1: Brad Jones (NSW) Audi A4 : Race 2: Brad Jones (NSW) Audi A4

LAKESIDE SUPER TOURING SCHEDULE Saturday, April 17 : Qualifying 1, 11.15-11.45am; Qualifying 2, 2.25-2.45pm Sunday, April 18 : Race 1 (16 laps) starts 12.45pm; Race 2 (31 laps) starts 3.05pm

ENTRY LIST (Provisional): No DRIVER CAR 1. Brad Jones (NSW) Audi Sport Australia A4 2. Matthew Coleman (Vic) Audi Sport Australia A4 3. Jim Richards (Vic) Volvo Dealer Racing Australia S40 4. Mark Williamson (Vic) Volvo Dealer Racing Australia S40 5. Anthony Robson (NSW) Grid Motorsport BMW 318i 7. Jamie Wall (GB) CLS Motorsport Honda Accord 8. Jim Cornish (NSW) Lyppard Racing Nissan Primera 9. Aaron McGill (NSW) Aaron McGill Motorsport Ford Mondeo 10. Tony Newman (NZ) TC Motorsport Peugeot 406 11. Milton Leslight (NSW) All Auto Parts Toyota Carina 12. Patrick Watts (GB) Starion Team Peugeot 406 14. Michael Downard (Vic) MPD Racing BMW 318i 23. Paul Morris (Qld) NEMO Racing BMW 320i 30. Troy Searle (NSW) Roadchill Express BMW 318i 44. Dean Canto (NSW) Team Mondeo Ford 45. David Auger (Qld) Gun Racing Alfa Romeo 155 56. John Henderson (NSW) Henderson Racing Opel Vectra 77. Malcolm Rea (Qld) Toyota Team Queensland Carina 88. Peter Hills (NSW) Team Mondeo Ford 98. Claude Elias (NSW) Team HVE Racing Hyundai Lantra 99. Carlos Rolfo (Qld) Toyota Team Queensland Carina

Mike Porter <mikep@qldnet.com.au>

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Series General
Drivers Tim Harvey , Cameron McConville , Jim Richards , Brad Jones , Dean Canto , Paul Morris , Paul Radisich , Mark Williamson , Aaron McGill , David Auger , Peter Hill , Anthony Robson , Patrick Watts
Teams Williams